Monday, July 28, 2014

Stage 21 Évry / Paris Champs-Élysées - All Over Red Rover

With the podiums done and dusted in stage 20 and after three hard weeks in the saddle, the Tour was finally on the home stretch from Évry to the most famous boulevard in the world the Champs-Élysées in Paris. 

Final day of the Tour and Gabriel Gate has reached the end of his recipe book. On this special day he prepared a special treat of Raspberry Millefeuilles. But alas, NO BUTTER. Sigh. This brings this year’s Beurremetric Counter competition to a close and weighs in on the podium at 1.12kg.

The peloton hit the road and the run up to Paris resembled a Sunday coffee ride. As is the tradition there was Champagne for the victor Vincenzo Nibali (Asstana) and lots of photo opportunities for pouty selfies. It was also a chance for the riders to have a friendly chat among themselves about what they’ll be doing after the Tour like how long the grass must be after three weeks and the first job is to mow the lawn when they get home.

Phil and Paul idled away the time but we could sense a little bit of tension in the commentary box. Paul spotted what looked like 300,000 tonnes of pre-stressed concrete. All Phil had to say in response was “Say no more!”. Ouch! I don’t know how they’ve done this gig together for so many years. Even if they are the best of friends you’d think they’d still be ready to kill each other after three weeks in that tiny commentary box.

If the Ps are looking for a gig where they’re not in such close proximity they could always put their knowledge of fishing, vulture watching and modern building materials to good use and work as tour guides on a Scenic River Cruise boat. But as usual they’ll probably back in that God awful hell-hole of a commentary box next year.

The riders finally reached the Champs-Élysées which is normally a busy street but was closed off today for bike racing. The women graced the Champs-Élysées earlier in the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France event won by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv).

Sylvain Chavanel (IAMYOUAREWEARE Cycling) was the first to go on the attack. Trekie ‘The Jensie’ made his move and in his final Tour picked up the last of the available intermediate sprint points. This was no casual lap of honour for the oldest man in the universe. I bet he worked for it, probably muttering under his breath “shut up legs” all the way. What a legend and he’ll be sorely missed from the Tour when he retires at year’s end.

It wasn’t a race without drama. Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R C3PO) crashed and his second place on the podium looked in jeopardy but Nibs, the gentleman he always is slowed the pace to let Peraud get back into the race.

Then it was game on as each lap of the famous thoroughfare counted down. At lap six Phil declared three laps to go in an eight lap race. Phil, that calculator in the drawer does more than spell ‘shell’ if you turn it upside down. In a thrilling sprint finish Marcel Kitteh (Giant-Shimano) pipped Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) at the line. Another nice set of bookends for Kitteh who won the first and last stages of the Tour as he had done in 2013.

Sicilian jersey in honour of Vincenzo Nibali 'the Shark of Messina'

Nibali was crowned Tour champion and goes home with a full pride of podium lions in the Asstana team bus. He also completes the set of grand tours on his palmares. Debate will simmer about the outcome if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn’t crashed out. It‘s a moot point really. Nibs simply rode superbly over the three weeks and I firmly believe he would have won it anyway.

For the record books the jersey winners are:

The Golden Fleece: Vincenzo Nibali (Asstana)
Green: Peter Sagan (Cannonball)
Polka dot: Rafal Majka (Sinkoff Taxo)
White: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Team: AG2R C3PO
Super combative: Alessandro De Marchi (Cannonball)

In other news I’m trying to get my ‘Rollands’ song penned for stage 1 recorded. Lorde has yet to return my calls but Weird Al Yankovic has shown interest in doing a polka version.

Thank you as always to Gabriel Gate for the wonderful recipes, Matt Keenan, Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett for your call of the race. If it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t have anything to write about except maybe a serious chronicle of an annual major sporting event.

Finally, thank you for your positive feedback and retweets of Le Wrap. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it much as I’ve had putting it together. This is Le Wrap’s second year and what a more fitting way than to finish on blog post number 42.

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